Children's panels '˜should hear FGM risk cases'

Girls in Scotland at risk of female genital mutilation (FGM) should be referred to the Children's Hearing system, the former director of the Scottish Child Law Centre has said.

Morag Driscoll, convener of the Law Society of Scotland's family law sub-committee, says it is time for debate. Photograph: Scott Louden

Morag Driscoll, a solicitor and convener of the Law Society of Scotland’s family law sub-committee, said the procedure was “such a distinctly awful thing” and that girls as young as six were being subjected to it.

The practice has been an offence in the UK since 1985.

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Police Scotland said there have been no prosecutions for FGM in Scotland but that 42 “incidents of concern” were recorded by professionals between 1 January, 2014 and 30 September, 2016; however there was insufficient evidence to substantiate a crime.

“This is a subject which is more hidden than discussed which is why I strongly believe it is time to trigger the debate with MSPs,” Driscoll said.

“I’ve heard anecdotally from medical professionals, teachers and social workers about their worries. No-one can rule out that it is not being carried out in Scotland or that girls here are being sent out of the country to have it done.”

Driscoll, a former reporter with the Children’s Hearings, said the aim was not to break up families but to get them to understand FGM was unacceptable.

She is also calling for a co-ordinated response from professionals to stamp out the practice.

“A girl can be part of a very loving supportive family who see FGM as doing the right thing for their daughter.

“The aim is to get the family to understand that this is not something we find acceptable.

“I would like to see better co-ordination between agencies such as midwives who deliver a baby who notice a woman has been mutilated, social workers, health visitors and teachers who notice if a girl is suddenly taken out of school.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We welcome Morag Driscoll’s longstanding commitment to raising the profile of this important issue. Girls in danger of being subjected to FGM are considered to be at risk of significant harm and child protection procedures, including being placed on the child protection register, can be invoked in these cases.”